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I like to think I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to my friends, to my family, even to my favorite workout instructors (shoutout to Michael at Aerospace). What I’ve never been loyal to is my skin-care routine. That is, until I discovered my desert-island product: Natura Bisse’s Essential Shock Intense Retinol Fluid

First I’ll mention the downside: It’s not cheap. A 1.7-ounce tube of this stuff will set you back $110. Were I an investment banker or a Kardashian, I might not give the price a second thought, but alas, I’m a 20-something editor living in a city where my room’s rent is a family of four’s mortgage in Ohio. I will say, though, that one tube goes the distance, meaning you won’t be spending $110 every four weeks. (I typically repurchase every six months.) So, no—this is by no means a necessity; however, I’m obsessed nonetheless. And here’s why.

According to the brand, this is a “silky, ultra-hydrating, anti-aging fluid with retinol for daily use that envelopes your skin in a veil of softness.” Whoa, dramatic. But also, yeah, true. I first discovered it about five years ago while interning at a women’s magazine. One of the editors kindly gave me, a lowly college student, a tube the brand had sent her. Blissfully unconcerned with aging at the time, I let it sit in my medicine cabinet for two years. When I finally gave it a try, I was hooked.

Every night, after removing my makeup, cleansing and applying toner (which I finally understand), I massage one and a half pumps—no more, no less—into my face and neck. Unlike other retinol formulas I’ve tried, it doesn’t feel tacky on the skin, and despite its rather aggressive name, it’s very gentle. Honestly, this cream makes me look like I've just woken up from the most restful sleep of my life—but, somewhat unfortunately, that happens right as I'm on my way to bed.

While I can’t comment on the effect it’s having on my future wrinkles, I can say that if it means shelling out $220 a year for smoother, brighter skin that makes me feel fancy and happy, I’m cool with dipping into my slush fund. (By which I mean the money I set aside for wine to make rosé slushies—I am a millennial, after all.) 

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